Sergio wears “green jacket” at soccer match

The green jacket tour continues.

Sergio Garcia traded in the golf course for the pitch on Sunday as he took the ceremonial kick-off at the La Liga Clasico match between Real Madrid and Barcelona. And of course, he was wearing his Masters green jacket.

Garcia, a Real Madrid fan, was promised this opportunity by the club’s president, Florentino Perez, if he ever won a major. Mission accomplished.

courtesy of golf.com

Lexi Thompson, through tears, addresses ANA snafu: ‘It was kind of a nightmare’

Lexi Thompson pauses after becoming emotional while speaking to reporters about her loss at the ANA Inspiration.

Lexi Thompson, speaking for the first time since losing the ANA Inspiration in a playoff to So Yeon Ryu earlier this month, likened her four-shot penalty experience to a nightmare.

“I played amazing that week,” Thompson said, through tears. “I don’t think I’ve ever played any better. Just for that to happen…it was kind of a nightmare.”

Thompson is in the field for this week’s Volunteers of America Texas Shootout, her first tournament since the ANA Inspiration. Thompson was assessed a pair of two-stroke penalties for hitting her ball from the wrong spot on the 17th hole and then signing an incorrect scorecard after the third round of the LPGA’s first major. Her violations, however, didn’t surface until the following day, when a TV viewer called the LPGA to report the potential penalties. She was told of the four-stroke penalty walking off the 12th green Sunday, and went from leading the tournament to trailing by two before her eventual playoff loss.

Following much discussion over social media, the USGA and R&A announced Tuesday an immediate change to the rules of golf in an attempt to protect players from being penalized for infractions that “could not reasonably have been seen with the naked eye.” Decision 34-3/10 does not eliminate viewer call-ins.

Thompson said in her press conference that while she could see where the rules officials were coming from, she stands by the fact that she has always played golf by the rules.

“The hardest part, just going through it,” Thompson said, breaking down, “I’ve worked my whole life to have my name on major championship trophies, especially that one. It’s a very special week for me with all the history behind it.”

Thompson said she never intended to mark her ball on the 17th hole during the third round, instead planning to tap in the short putt. But she said she talked herself into marking because she had missed many tap-ins previously. There was nothing in her line, and she referred the condition of the greens as “perfect.”

“I have no reason behind it,” Thompson said of her decision. “I did not mean it at all.

“I mark my ball with a dot and that’s where I focus my eyes on where I want to make contact,” Thompson said. “So when I went to mark it, I just rotated my ball to line up my dot to where my putter would make contact.”

The 22-year-old top-ranked American said she was overwhelmed by the support she received following the loss. She didn’t let it keep her from the game, playing a round with her brothers just two days after the ordeal.

Golf Channel insider Tim Rosaforte said Wednesday that the USGA, per a source, has not ruled out changing the call-in rule. Many pros, reacting to the USGA and R&A change, thought the amendment could have gone one step further to eliminate viewer call-ins. Thompson is in that camp.

“Do I think it’s right?” Thompson said. “Not really, but it’s not my say.”

courtesy of Marika Washchyshyn (golf.com)

Dustin Johnson announces he’ll return to PGA Tour at Wells Fargo Championship

Dustin Johnson, who withdrew from the Masters, last played at the WGC Match Play at the end of March.

Dustin Johnson’s injured back must be feeling better.

The world’s No. 1 player said he’ll return to the PGA Tour at the Wells Fargo Championships at Eagle Point Golf Club from May 4-7.

The Wells Fargo Championship announced Johnson’s status Thursday.

Johnson was among the favorites to win the Masters last week after winning three straight tournaments. But a fall at his rental home hurt his back the day before the year’s first major was to start.

Johnson warmed up last Thursday on the Augusta National practice range and came out to the putting green near the first tee. But he headed off the course and withdrew with a bad back.

Johnson said then he had planned to take three weeks off following the Masters.

courtesy of AP news

Spieth and Sergio, polar opposites at Augusta National, converge for green jacket

Sergio Garcia and Jordan Spieth have played this Masters (and their careers) completely different.

One man came here at age 21, played the tournament of his life, and won. The other went to Medinah at age 19, played the tournament of his life, and finished second. This should not matter when Jordan Spieth and Sergio Garcia try to win the 2017 Masters, but of course it does.

Spieth will not play the final round in his green jacket, but he carries it in his mind wherever he goes. And Garcia cannot show up here Sunday and win the 1999 PGA or the 2002 Masters or the British Opens he could have won but didn’t. But he must make peace with those memories before he creates a better one.

This Masters leaderboard is like a menu where everything looks good: The Spieth was fantastic last time, the Rickie Fowler is always enjoyable, and another Adam Scott or Justin Rose might be OK if you’re into that sort of thing. But Spieth and Garcia are the most interesting golfers on the board.

For proof, consider Charley Hoffman’s second shot on 11 Saturday. Apparently, nobody else did. Hoffman hit a terrific shot from the left rough to 22 feet, and the crowd at Amen Corner barely noticed. I’ve heard louder cheers at divorce proceedings. Hoffman was leading the Masters at the time. Then Garcia hit his shot to 21 feet, and the crowd gave him his due.

Garcia is six under, tied for the lead with Rose, after holing a seven-foot par putt on No. 18. All week, he has looked and acted like a man who is not Sergio Garcia. Serene. Comfortable. At the 12th, where the flag was flapping but the tee felt windless, Garcia hit one of the best shots anybody hit there all day, to within 10 feet. And on 15, Garcia calmly waited for Hoffman to hit three shots before sinking his birdie putt.

Putting is supposed to keep Garcia down – well, putting and ghosts – but in 54 holes, Garcia has had just one three-putt. Spieth, the renowned putter, has had four.

After he finished the third round, Garcia talked about his good luck this week. Sure, he’s had some: On 13 Saturday, he hit a 4-iron that should have rolled back into the water but stopped on a bank, and on 10 Friday, he hit his tee shot into the trees, but it bounced back into the fairway.

But bad luck is a matter of perception. Garcia’s has changed. He is not dwelling on the perfectly struck balls that fly long because the wind died, and he has flicked off any potential annoyances like pieces of lint. He ignored the fans talking as he hit his tee shot on 17 Saturday. He seems at peace.

Garcia has not played any hole remotely like Spieth played No. 15 Thursday, when Spieth stood in the fairway, 100 yards from the pin, after two shots, and managed a nine. And that’s what makes Spieth’s current standing so impressive: he is four under, two shots off the lead.

Spieth can be volatile but he is such a compelling golfer because he is steely when he needs to be. He saved par from the sand on the par-three 4th, and he kept making nerveless pars until the putts started dropping.

Spieth came into the week answering a million questions about how he would handle the par-3 12th after his quadruple-bogey meltdown on Sunday last year. Actually, “a million questions” is not accurate – it was the same question a million times. He said he would be fine, but what he should have said was that he is 23 years old and already owns a green jacket, so who’s haunting whom here?

Fred Couples is a hero here, and in the World Golf Hall of Fame, for winning one Masters, his only major. Spieth has won a Masters, a U.S. Open and has, oh, two decades to add to that collection. He is too young and successful to lie awake at night, wondering what might have been, and he knows it.

Garcia? He is 37. One of his heroes, fellow Spaniard Seve Ballesteros, was long done winning majors by that age – and Seve won five. Another hero, Jose Maria Olazabal, won his two green jackets at age 28 and 33. Garcia has time, but not that much time.

He is at the age where he can throw his toys on the ground and cry, or realize they are pretty nice toys and relax. He has chosen to relax. Maybe it’s the influence of his girlfriend, Angela Akins – Garcia once admitted he went into a slump after getting dumped. Maybe it’s just age. But consider these two quotes:

Garcia, 2009, on Augusta National: “I don’t like it, to tell you the truth. I don’t think it is fair. Even when it’s dry you still get mud balls in the middle of the fairway. It’s too much of a guessing game.”

Garcia, 2017, on Augusta National: “It’s the kind of place that, if you’re trying to fight against it, it’s going to beat you down. So you’ve just got to roll with it and realize that sometimes you’re going to get good breaks, like has happened to me a few times this week, and sometimes you’re going to get not-so-good breaks.”

Jordan Spieth, 23, has been blessed with the wisdom of 37-year-old Sergio Garcia. He has everything in his bag except demons. And maybe this would all be different for Garcia if Tiger Woods had made a few bogeys on the back nine at Medinah in 1999, but then Tiger wouldn’t be Tiger, Sergio wouldn’t be Sergio, and we wouldn’t be here, hearing him say, “right now, I’m pretty calm.” The next 18 holes may define Sergio Garcia’s golf life. He seems fine with it.

Courtesy of Michael Rosenberg (golf.com)

Heading to the Masters? 10 ways to be a proper patron

It’s obvious when you first step foot on the grounds of Augusta National for the Masters tournament that a certain kind of behavior is expected out of the patrons. It’s quieter, except for those birds chirping, and the patrons seem to have a reverent attitude. I mean, this is like going to the Holy Church of Golf. All the caddies are wearing white, many of the women are in their Sunday best, and yes, the golfers do plenty of praying, especially on Sunday.  But if you’ve never been before, how do you know how you’re supposed to conduct yourself as a patron? It’s not like we’re born with this ability; it’s learned. Admittedly, the list below seems to be more about don’ts than do’s, but it’s really not that hard. If you’re fortunate enough to have credentials (i.e. tickets), just follow these guidelines, and you’ll be fine.

par 3 contest

1. Down in front

Okay, there’s an order to things here at Augusta National. Areas for patrons with chairs are even roped off, and patrons get there mighty early in the morning to claim their spot. If you’re wandering the course, trying to follow a particular group, you’ll need to be tall or find a nice hill or bleachers to watch the action. A great viewing area, by the way, is the bleachers behind the 12th tee, where you can see the 11th green, the par-3 12th and much of the par-5 13th, better known as Amen Corner.

Also, it’s a big no-no for patrons to run while on the grounds, whether it’s to get a front row spot to spy Jordan Spieth going for 13 in two or to get in line for a pimento cheese sandwich. You may be lucky to get away with a warning.

2. Leave your cell phones in the car

Or in the hotel room. I mean, they’re adamant about this. Forget the fact that almost all PGA Tour events allow cell phones on the course, even encouraging you to download the tournament app so you can follow the leaderboard, this is a tradition like no other, which means those mechanical scoreboards have done the job in the past and are doing the job today. And if you were planning to use your camera as a phone, fuhgeddaboutit. Even during practice rounds, when you can take your camera, you can’t bring those fancy Androids or iPhones that take better pictures than most $500 cameras.

3. Don’t wear a green blazer

If you’re going to be a good patron, you’ve got leave that green jacket in the car or at home or in the hotel room. Those are reserved for members and past champions. You don’t want to cause any confusion out there, impersonating Doug Ford or Condoleezza Rice. If you must wear a blazer, pick a plaid one from the tournament that follows the Masters.

Be sure to leave the denim at home and, while we’re at it, consider saving the Loudmouth Pants for another week.

4. Smoke the fattest cigar you can find

I don’t know if there’s a better place to smoke cigars than where most of the old legends used to smoke Lucky Strikes and Camels. (There’s a great Frank Christian picture of Ben Hogan and Arnold Palmer waiting on the tee puffing away, during the 1966 Masters.) But please make sure it’s a good one, like a Cohiba, since everyone around you will be smoking it, too.

5. Shop, but not ’til you drop

Okay, if you’re going to the Masters, you have to bring back lots of souvenirs for everyone, but not too many. After all, if you’re one of the those patrons who comes out of the massive Masters merchandise building with $50,000 worth of memorabilia, it’s pretty obvious you’re hitting the secondary market for your own gain, and that ain’t cool.

Just buy your closest friends a gift. They love those $16 coffee mugs. Every golfer who has received one of those from me drinks out of it every day.

6. Save room for Masters Mini Moonpies

I mean, other than the Masters, when do you get to eat these things? I don’t even know where to find regular moon pies in the grocery stores anymore. They’ve had them at Augusta National forever. I think there’s marshmallow in them and there’s chocolate on the outside, a winning combo. It gives you energy to climb all those hills, which look way bigger in person than on TV. So don’t fill up on $1.50 pimento cheese sandwiches or Masters potato chips or Masters trail mix or Masters peanuts; save room for those sweet little saucers.

7. Arrive early and stay at Augusta late

What else are you going to do while in Augusta? Sleep in at your $300-a-night Super 8 crash pad? Breakfast at the Waffle House and dinner at Hooters (two of many blue collar staples on Washington Rd.)? Instead, take it all in. Get there at the crack of dawn and stay until the last putt is holed. And why not? Food is affordable at the Masters.

8. No ‘Mashed potatoes!’ please

No, “You da mans,” “Get in the hole” or any other lame comments. This is the Masters, man. A polite golf clap will do nicely and when they do something really spectacular — like when Tiger Woods holed out that pitch shot from behind the 16th green — you can let loose like any other golf tournament.

9. Adults: Lay off the autographs

If you’re over say, 25, no autographs. Leave that for the kids. We know what those 50-year-olds are likely doing with those autographed flags they’re supposedly bringing back for family and friends: cashing in with the collectible guys.

10. No scalping tickets outside the grounds

Okay, so you’ve got tickets for the whole week and you want to take a day off to play golf at the nearby River Club in North Augusta or Aiken (S.C.) Golf Club just 20 minutes away. Don’t even think about scalping those tickets near the grounds to pay for the green fees. This is punishable by jail, fine or even worse, permanent expulsion from Magnolia Lane.

courtesy of Mike Bailey (golfadvisor.com)

Edward Norton v. Alec Baldwin: Hollywood goes head to head over proposed Hamptons golf course

Actors Edward Norton and Alec Baldwin are the latest high-profile activists on either side of the proposed Hills resort on Long Island.

A proposed golf community in the Hamptons is causing a lot of controversy, and now Hollywood heavyweights are taking sides.

For the better part of a year, actor Alec Baldwin has become an outspoken ally of some Hamptons residents who oppose the construction of The Hills, an 18-hole golf course, clubhouse and 118-luxury home resort plot on 600 acres in East Quogue, New York. The parcel of land is owned by the Arizona-based Discovery Land Company and headed up by developer Mike Meldman, who names actor Edward Norton as a friend.

Though the community on Long Island has been split for years on the development, Norton has only recently come on board to help advise Meldman and his company on how to prevent water pollution, one of the residents’ main concerns. Many worry that the proposed development will prove to be disastrous for the East End environment, while others in support think the project will help bolster the Hamptons economy. Norton is the president of the U.S. board of the Maasai Wilderness Conservation Trust and a UN goodwill ambassador for biodiversity, and has worked with technology that removes nitrogen from runoff previously.

A report stated that Meldman will employ Baswood waste treatment, of which Norton is the chair of the board, to handle the Hills project.

Baldwin is concerned that companies like Meldman’s have too much leeway in the practices used to develop these land parcels, thanks to an area rezoning legislation known as planned development districts, or PDDs. A PDD’s goal is to encourage more flexibility and creativity in designing residential, commercial, industrial and mixed use areas than is currently allowed under conventional land use regulations. Baldwin, who is an Amagansett resident, released a public service announcement in 2016 in support of repealing the legislation, specifically naming the Hills in his plea.

“The biggest and baddest development on Long Island is The Hills at Southampton proposed mega golf resort on some 500 acres of land that is the largest privately owned Pine Barrens parcel remaining on Long Island,” Baldwin said.

Norton’s involvement comes a few months before the development’s third and final public hearing in June.

“The project represents a much lower density development with much greater retention of open space and ecology than the development zoning allowed for or had originally planned,” Norton said. “Without any doubt, a cutting-edge wastewater treatment system gives the community the opportunity to reduce nitrogen contamination of the inland waterways, which is critical.”

 

Agent: Tiger still undecided on Masters, report that suggests otherwise is “comical”

After withdrawing from the Dubai Desert Classic, Tiger Woods’ status for the Masters is still up in the air.

We’re less than three weeks away from the Masters, and it’s still unclear if Tiger Woods will play or not.

This “will he or won’t he?” isn’t new regarding Woods and the season’s first major. He missed the 2014 and ’16 Masters with reports coming in all along the way about his health and practice regimen. This year appears to be no different.

On Friday, Golf Digest released a report with sources claiming Woods hasn’t been able to play or practice since back spasms forced his withdrawal from the Dubai Desert Classic. Mark Steinberg, Woods’ agent, offered the following rebuttal to the Golf Channel where he specifically mentions the author, Brian Wacker.

“I have no idea who Mr. Wacker’s really close sources are,” Steinberg said. “I can tell you this, nobody spoke to him; so how he could know something that Tiger and I don’t know is comical. I talked to Tiger four hours ago on the phone. We’re not in a situation to even talk about playing in the Masters now. He’s gotten treatments and is progressing and hoping he can do it. There’s not been a decision one way or the other. I couldn’t give you a fair assessment, but to say it’s doubtful is an absolutely inaccurate statement.”

The most interesting takeaway: Even though the opening round of the Masters is 19 days away, Woods isn’t in “a situation to even talk about playing in the Masters.”

Steinberg was also asked about Woods’ practice routine, and he said, “I don’t want to talk about specifics yet. When we’re ready to get into that, we’ll disclose it. He’s working hard at getting better, he’s working hard at progressing.”

Woods will be in New York City on Monday to sign copies of his new book. If you’re in the area, you can go straight to the source and ask him about his Masters plans yourself.

courtesy of Coleman McDowell (golf.com)

Tour Confidential: Do pros owe it to Arnie to play Bay Hill this week?

Arnold Palmer talks with Justin Rose just off the 18th green during the final round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational in 2016.

Only 10 of the top 25 players in the World Ranking will tee it up at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, which prompted Billy Horschel to tweet: “Disappointing. Totally understand schedule issues. But 1st year without AP. Honor an icon! Without him wouldn’t be in position we are today.” While the turnout might seem underwhelming, only nine of the top 25 played last year at Bay Hill. Do the pros owe it to Arnie to play at the event that bears his name? Or is a cramped schedule that features a couple of WGC events in the run-up to the Masters to blame?

Jeff Ritter, digital development editor, Sports Illustrated Golf Group (@Jeff_Ritter): It would certainly be nice to see a bigger turnout from the top-ranked players, but the rerouted “Florida Swing,” which now passes through Mexico City for a WGC event, throws a wrench into travel plans for the top 60. Arnie deserves all the tributes that can ever be given, but players also need to do what’s best to prepare for Augusta. The API is in a tough spot on the calendar. Hopefully it can slide to a friendlier week when the Tour re-works the schedule.

Josh Sens, contributing writer, GOLF (@JoshSens): I hate to drift into the area of moralizing “shoulds” and “shouldn’ts” but this was a big symbolic miss for professional golf, to say nothing of a blown PR opportunity. Yeah, schedules are tight, but these guys had plenty of time to adjust theirs. When Palmer passed away, it could have been a time for everyone to do everything they could to show up at the first one. A big show of force in support of the man who did so much to shape the game. I understand the idea of gearing up for the Masters. But there was a time when gearing up for the Masters meant showing up in Augusta and playing practice rounds. What’s wrong with that?

John Wood, caddie for Matt Kuchar (@johnwould): Players simply cannot play every event, especially with the Masters on approach. The top players set a schedule that gives them the best chance to compete at courses that fit their game, as well as in terms of being in the right frame of mind and physical condition to compete at the Masters, and all of the majors. Would it be wonderful if everyone got together to play at Bay Hill this year to honor Palmer? Sure. But the schedule is very cramped, and you can’t blame the guys who don’t play.

Michael Bamberger, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: The best way to honor Arnold is to be genuine with fans, play with some flair (if you got it!), talk to the writers (and the TV people) and remember that the game made you, not vice-versa. Going to Bay Hill is a one-off gesture of no particular consequence.

Joe Passov, senior editor, GOLF (@joepassov): I’m torn here. The same thing happened at the AT&T Byron Nelson a few years back. When Byron was alive, all the top stars showed up at his tournament, even though there were few fans of the host course, simply because they had so much respect for the man himself. After his passing, the top names stayed away in droves. I’m almost persuaded by JW’s argument that the players need to do what’s best for them and their careers, especially in regards to the Masters run-up, but ultimately, I’m with Josh on this one. At least show up this very first year after the King has left us, pay your respects, and whatever you do in 2018 and beyond, fine.

courtesy of Golf Wire

Phil Mickelson thrills crowd with over-the-trees shot

Phil Mickelson had some high-flying thrills for fans during Round 3 of the WGC-Mexico Championship.

We’ll never get tired of Phil Mickelson doing Phil Mickelson things. He didn’t disappoint during the third round of the WGC-Mexico Championship, either.

Mickelson treated crowds to two chip-ins for birdie earlier in his round, but it was his high-flying tree shots that really got the fans riled up.

Sitting one shot off the lead at the turn, Mickelson sent his tee shot on the 10th way left towards an adjacent fairway. But upon going to search for his ball, neither he, nor caddie Jim ‘Bones’ Mackay, nor officials could locate it. It was determined that a fan had picked up his ball, so Mickelson was free to take a drop without penalty. The challenge? There were rows of people and impossibly high trees in the way.

No problem for Mickelson. He sent his second shot high over the top, landing it just feet away from the hole. Unfortunately, he missed his birdie putt — but the par save was one for the Lefty books.

courtesy of EXTRA SPIN STAFF

UCLA Bruins Have Bel-Air Country Club Edge When It Comes To 2017 U.S. Amateur

The iconic swinging bridge at Bel-Air

A winding five-mile stretch along iconic Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles leads from one historic golf club to another for the 312 competitors who will tee it up in the 117th U.S. Amateur Championship this August.

And the fact that Bel-Air Country Club and The Riviera Country Club will serve as stroke-play co-hosts for the United States Golf Association’s oldest and most prestigious amateur championship is enough to get the adrenaline flowing every time the UCLA men’s golf team practices during the season.

That’s because every UCLA golfer who qualifies for the 2017 U.S. Amateur will have a wealth of course knowledge and strategic advantages over his fellow competitors.

“We play Bel-Air two to three times a week, and we probably play Riviera a couple times a month,” said Derek Freeman, in his 10th season as the Bruins golf coach. “So we know the courses extremely well. . . .I think any of our guys on our team will have a great opportunity (to advance) if they qualify. That knowledge would definitely be an advantage.”

That will be especially true at Bel-Air, which has been the primary home course for UCLA golf teams for more than 50 years, not surprising considering that longtime Bel-Air head professional Eddie (“Little Pro”) Merrins also was UCLA’s golf coach from 1975-88.

Designed by the renowned George C. Thomas and William P. Bell and opened in 1927, Bel-Air Country Club is a 6,729-yard, par-70 layout with world-class routing that expertly weaves through four different canyons. There are tunnels to navigate and a distinctive white swinging bridge leading from the tee box on the par-3 10th hole that traverses a huge ravine on the way to the green. Fittingly, the elevated tee on the par-5 first hole features distant views of UCLA campus buildings across Sunset Boulevard.

The course previously was the site of two other USGA championships – the 1976 U.S. Amateur and the 2004 U.S. Senior Amateur — and has been the scene of colorful history through the years. Katherine Hepburn, Alfred Hitchcock, Conrad Hilton and Ronald Reagan all had homes on the course and, according to published reports, Howard Hughes once landed his private plane on a fairway to impress Hepburn, who was taking a lesson from one of the pros. The next day, Hughes was no longer a member.

“It’s a very interesting place, because you really have to know the golf course well to score well,” Freeman said. “It’s not to say you can’t go there and play well if you’ve only played it one or two times, but it’s got so many nuances because it’s tucked up in the canyons. The poa annua greens are very difficult, too – and that’s the defense of a course that’s not overly long with today’s technology and the way these young guys play.

“The key to the course is you have to drive it in the fairway. And if you do that, you have to control your second shot and hit it on the proper part of the green. . . .If you find yourself in difficult situations on the golf course – the wrong part of the green, the wrong part of the fairway and you miss it in the wrong spot – it just becomes a very difficult golf course really quick.”

UCLA junior Tyler Collier, the most experienced player on his team and a two-time U.S. Amateur qualifier, is looking forward to trying to qualify again, especially because of the familiar venues. He says his Bruins teammates are excited about the opportunity, too.

“It’s a topic of discussion that comes up quite a bit just because everybody wants to make it this year; everybody wants to play Bel-Air and Riviera,” Collier said. “I believe everybody on the team will try to qualify; no reason not to.”

Everyone who qualifies will play one round of stroke play at Bel-Air and one round of stroke play at Riviera, and then the top 64 advance to match play at Riviera. Local qualifiers in Southern California will be conducted in July at courses such as Hillcrest Country Club in Los Angeles, Oakmont Country Club in Glendale, Mission Viejo Country Club in Orange County and Western Hills Country Club in Chino Hills. Players in the top 50 of the World Amateur Golf Ranking are automatically exempt.

“For anyone on our team who makes it, it’d be a huge advantage, because we get to play Bel-Air a few times a week when we’re home (during the season),” Collier said. “We know the course better than anyone else who’s going to be playing in the championship. We know all the hole locations and all the breaks in the greens, so that would be an advantage for us. Course knowledge off the tee and around the greens is very important at Bel-Air.”

Another advantage for UCLA qualifiers, depending on tee times assigned, is knowing how to play the course under different conditions.

“In my opinion, the draw for the U.S. Amateur is going to be really critical for success,” Freeman said. “When you play Bel-Air in the morning, as opposed to the afternoon, there’s a big difference. In the morning, when it’s cooler, it plays longer and more difficult. In the afternoon it gets much warmer and the ball goes a lot farther, so the course plays much shorter. And so I think there’s an inherent advantage if you get a late tee time at Bel-Air in the afternoon.”

Collier echoed his coach’s sentiments.
“We usually play (practice rounds) at Bel-Air at 7 a.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays, when the course plays longer and softer than it does at 1 p.m.” he said. “So if you play a practice round early (in the U.S. Amateur) and then get a late tee time, you’re going to be playing two completely different golf courses.”

The course record at Bel-Air is 61 by USC’s Tom Glissmeyer during a 2008 team qualifying event. Former Lakers star Jerry West still holds the back-nine record of 28 while shooting a round of 63 in 1970. Collier, whose career-low at Bel-Air is 64, says the toughest holes on the course are the 200-yard par-3 10th, which can play as much as 30 more yards uphill; the 442-yard No. 2 and 438-yard No. 4, both par-4s; the 228-yard, par-3 13th and the long and narrow 584-yard, par-5 14th.

“And there’s a creek that runs through the middle of the back nine,” Freeman said. “It comes into play on five holes and can cause you problems.”

Of course, Collier and his Bruins teammates – including sophomores Cole Madey and freshman Hidetoshi Yoshihara — know all of the quirks and nuances at Bel-Air. That’s why they are all hoping for another “home game” in August.

“I think all of our guys will have an extra incentive to qualify,” Freeman said. “Tyler (Collier) works very, very hard on his game, and I think he’s got a great chance to make it and take advantage of knowing the course so well. Cole has been getting better and better each week; he’s going to have a great opportunity to make it. And then there’s Hidetoshi; even though he’s a freshman, he’ really starting to play some nice golf and I can see him having an opportunity.”

Yoshihara previously qualified for the 2015 U.S. Amateur while at Woodbridge High in Orange County, where he won the CIF state championship as a senior. Collier qualified twice for the U.S. Amateur – in 2014 at Atlantic Athletic Club, where he shot 76-81 and missed the cut for match play, and in 2015 at Olympic Fields in suburban Chicago, where he shot 73-77 and missed the cut again.

But Collier, a transfer from Oregon State, says those were beneficial learning experiences for him.

“I’d say I learned about myself and my game,” he said. “In those (championships), I wasn’t far off, but I was putting too much pressure on myself and trying to do too much. The first two days (of stroke play), you’re not trying to win the golf tournament; you’re just trying to get in the top 64 (for match play). I understand that now.”

All of the UCLA players also understand they will have a home-course advantage if they qualify for the 117th U.S. Amateur Championship. They would love to make that familiar five-mile drive down Sunset Boulevard in August (Aug. 14-20 to play for the prestigious Havemeyer Trophy which has been won by some of golf’s greatest players such as Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods and Bob Jones.

U.S. Amateur tickets are available online at usga.org/usam. Tickets are $20 (single-day grounds) and $75 for a weekly pass. Military personnel and students receive free admission with valid ID.f

Courtesy of GolfWire

Tiger Woods withdraws from Genesis Open and Honda Classic due to back spasms

Tiger Woods’s return to the PGA Tour has been put on hold once again.

Woods returned to the PGA Tour after an 18-month layoff at Torrey Pines, where he missed the cut for the first time in his career, and then withdrew from the Omega Dubai Desert Classic after an opening-round 77, citing back spasms.

On Friday morning, Woods posted an update on his website announcing that he would not be playing in next week’s Genesis Open in California or the Honda Classic in Florida, two events he had committed to play in earlier in the year.

“My doctors have advised me not to play the next two weeks, to continue my treatment and to let my back calm down,” Woods posted on his website. “This is not what I was hoping for or expecting. I am extremely disappointed to miss the Genesis Open, a tournament that benefits my foundation, and The Honda Classic, my hometown event. I would like to thank Genesis for their support, and I know we will have an outstanding week.”

On his SiriusXM PGA Tour radio show, Hank Haney, Woods’ former coach, offered his analysis of the news and thoughts on when we may see Woods again.

“?Clearly he’s not right. Clearly he’s still got issues and clearly the issues are bigger than they all just led on with just a little spasm and everything was fine and we’re all good,” Haney said. “He’s not all good. And he’s not fine. And his game is not fine. I clearly misread the Hero World Challenge situation where I thought, you know, he was looking great and his attitude was great and his body looked great. Now what does this do to this comeback? After Honda you have the World Golf Championship in Mexico. He’s not in that. Then you got Valspar, but the week after that is the Arnold Palmer. You can’t think you’re going to come back and play back-to-back, I wouldn’t think with these issues he’s had. Maybe he would, who knows. He signed up for four out of five. Then he’s got a World Golf Championship Match Play, he’s not in that. I don’t see him showing up to play that week in Puerto Rico, and that would be right after the Arnold Palmer. So, I mean, once again he’d have to be going back-to-back. I don’t see him playing Shell Houston Open. He’s never played there before, doesn’t know the course. He’s going to go there the week before the Masters? Who knows. Maybe he would, you never know. This is a different kind of comeback here and maybe it’s going to be a different schedule for Tiger. Or maybe he’s shut down again.

Maybe he’s shut down for a long time.  I’m not going to say forever because, hey, the guy could come back next year and be 42 years old and still have time, or the year after and be 43 years old and still have time.  But any way you slice it this is another setback for Tiger.”

Courtesy of golf.com

Jordan Spieth clashes with ‘scums’ seeking autographs at Pebble

Jordan Spieth didn’t appreciate the language some adults used in front of kids at Pebble Beach on Wednesday.

Jordan Spieth ripped professional autograph seekers after clashing with a few at Pebble Beach on Wednesday.

Spieth was coming off the 18th green and while he was signing a few autographs for kids he heard complaints from a few adults when he didn’t sign for them as well. Spieth later said he thought they were professional autograph seekers who would sell their the memorabilia online.

“So I turned around and one of them dropped an F-bomb in front of three kids, so I felt the need to turn around and tell them that that wasn’t right,” Spieth said at his press conference Wednesday. “And a couple of them were saying, ‘You’re not Tiger Woods, don’t act like you’re Tiger.’ I mean, it’s just like, Whatever, guys. You’re still trying to benefit off me and I’m not even Tiger Woods. So, you know, what’s that say about you?”

Spieth, who will tee it up alongside Jake Owen, Dustin Johnson and Wayne Gretzky to kick off the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am Thursday, doesn’t think much of those would seek to capitalize off his signature.

“I’m not appreciative of people who travel to benefit off other people’s success. And just, we’re out here to — I enjoy signing and sign for kids whenever we get the chance,” he said. “And when these guys have these items that you’ve already seen online and people, we have — our team keeps track of that kind of stuff. And these guys that just have bags of stuff to benefit from other people’s success when they didn’t do anything themselves. Go get a job instead of trying to make money off of the stuff that we have been able to do. We like to sign stuff for charity stuff or for kids or — and if you ask anybody universally it’s the same way, it’s just, they frustrate us.”

Spieth said normally he would let caddie Michael Greller handle situations like this but his frustrations got the better of him.

“I was just a little frustrated at the end and I didn’t appreciate the language that was used and just some scums that just, it just bothered me,” he said.

This isn’t the first time Spieth expressed his frustration with professional autograph seekers. During last year’s U.S. Open at Oakmont, he called out “eBayers” he saw crushing kids in the crowd while hunting for autographs.

courtesy of Josh Berhow (Golf.com)

 

Sergio Garcia completes wire-to-wire win in Dubai

Sergio Garcia with the winner’s trophy after round four of the Omega Dubai Desert Classic

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Sergio Garcia shot a final-round 3-under-par 69 to win the Dubai Desert Classic on Sunday after holding the tournament lead since the opening round.

The Spaniard, who had never posted a top-10 finish in his previous seven Desert Classic appearances, finished on a 19-under 269, three strokes ahead of Open champion and top-ranked European Henrik Stenson (69).

Denmark’s Lasse Jensen, whose 65 was the low round of the day, finished tied for third with England’s Tyrrell Hatton (67).

It was Garcia’s first European Tour win since the 2014 Qatar Masters. In the interim, he also won the Byron Nelson Classic on the PGA Tour last year.

With his 12th European Tour victory, Garcia became the sixth wire-to-wire winner of the Desert Classic and the sixth Spaniard to lift the “Dallah” trophy.

Garcia is expected to move up to No. 9 from his current 15th place when the rankings are released Monday.

The 37-year-old started the day with a birdie and increased his lead to four shots, a cushion that seemed necessary given how tough the front nine of the golf course was playing due to cross winds. He held his nerve throughout before making a critical par save on the eighth hole after hitting his tee shot into the right desert, and then made another birdie on the tough par-4 ninth to ensure he stayed four ahead of Stenson.

The Swede made his move on the back nine, with three birdies and a bogey on the first five holes, while Garcia kept churning out pars. Heading to the 15th tee, Garcia’s lead was down to two shots.

But the Spaniard held firm on the par-3 15th hole. He hit a stunning tee shot to two feet for a birdie, while Stenson hit his over the green and failed to make an up-and-down for a bogey and a two-shot swing.

Stenson then got a closing birdie while Garcia missed his from 12 feet, narrowing the gap to three shots.

“I’ve been fortunate to have some really good ball-striking tournaments,” said Garcia, who led the greens in regulation stats for the week and was second in driving accuracy. “This definitely was one of them. I felt like my iron play was really, really good. Obviously my driver was very good, a couple of shots here and there. But you know, on a course of 72 holes, it’s going to happen.

“Nobody can go without missing a shot but this week was definitely a week where I felt very comfortable with my game. I felt like I was in good control of what I wanted to do with my ball flight and stuff. So I guess it showed up.”

Stenson, who won the tournament in 2007, said: “Obviously, I was chasing all day and I was trying to push, even though I didn’t play my best.

“With that birdie on 14, I was hoping I was going to be able to make it a bit interesting coming into the last couple of holes. If you’re one or two behind, with 17 and 18, a lot of things can happen . you can eagle and someone else can end up in trouble.

“We picked the wrong wind and I hit the wrong shot at the same time. Airmailed the green on 15 and led to bogey. And Sergio hit a good shot to three feet and then it was pretty much game, set, match.”

After completing its desert swing, the European Tour next moves to Kuala Lumpur for the Maybank Championship.

Dubai Round 2 suspended due to severe wind, sandstorms

 

photo twitter@EuropeanTour

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Shortly after Tiger Woods withdrew Friday, the Dubai Desert Classic was hit by strong winds that brought down some trees and forced the second round to be suspended.

Martin Kaymer and Rafael Cabrera-Bello, tied at 4 under after both shooting 69s, had the lowest scores after two full rounds. But George Coetzee was at 9 under after eight holes at the Emirates Golf Club and overnight leader Sergio Garcia was at 8 under.

Woods withdrew before starting his second round with back spasms.

Kaymer criticized the decision to suspend play.

“Hard to understand the difference between the morning play and now, therefore even more surprised about the decision @EuropeanTour,” the German wrote on Twitter.

Coetzee, however, supported the decision.

“We saw this one tree go down. You get a warning it’s about to collapse and start squeaking. I was walking under the trees hearing the squeaking and thinking, this could be me,” the South African said. “It’s a little bit dangerous out there with the trees collapsing and stuff. Hopefully, tomorrow will be better.”

The best Tiger Woods-Super Bowl prop bets

It’s Super Bowl week, and that means one thing. Prop bets.

Sure, you can wager your hard earned money on what color the Gatorade poured on the winning coach will be or how long Luke Bryan’s national anthem will be. But we’re golfers – we need to bet on something we’re experts at. We listed some of the golf-related bets on the market below. Our favorite? Tiger’s fourth-round birdies versus total field goals made by both teams. For reference, there were two, one and two field goals, respectively, in the last three Super Bowls. Tiger’s last fourth-round birdie? August 2015. And it’s even money!

– Woods’ 72-hole score in Dubai (+27.5) vs. Tom Brady gross passing yards

– Woods’ fourth-round birdies (Even) vs. total field goals made by both teams

– Woods’ fourth-round bogeys (-1.5) vs. Matt Ryan touchdown passes

– Woods’ first-round score (-24.5) vs. gross yardage of Atlanta punter Matt Bosher’s first punt

– Hideki Matsuyama’s fourth-round score in Phoenix (-19.5) vs. yardage of longest touchdown scored by either team

– Justin Thomas’ fourth-round score in Phoenix (+21.5) vs. Julian Edelman receiving yards

– Phil Mickelson’s fourth-round score in Phoenix (+44.5) vs. Patriots’ total rushing yards

– Henrik Stenson’s fourth-round score in Dubai (-18.5) vs. Devonta Freeman rushing yards

Courtesy of Extra Spin Wire Service

Poll results: Answers to golf’s 18 toughest choices

Masters or Ryder Cup? Our readers overwhelming would rather head to Augusta than a Ryder Cup.

Every golfer loves a good debate: Tee high or tee it low? Jack or Tiger? Scotland or Ireland? But where do GOLF.com readers come down on these age-old questions? Over several days last week we polled you on 18 choices that golfers face, with the hopes of better understanding the psyche of the American golfer. More than 3,800 of you voiced your opinions, and some of the results might surprise you. (Zach Johnson over Dustin Johnson?!) The envelope, please!
1. In your ideal round, you are…

Walking: 64%
Riding: 36%

2. If you have time for one, your pre-round warm-up is at the…

Driving Range: 53%
Putting Green: 47%

3. When it comes to the rules, you play…

By the book: 60%
Fast and loose: 40%

4. Which of these two events would you rather attend?

The Masters: 81%
Ryder Cup: 19%

5. The greatest golfer of all time is:

Tiger Woods:  38%
Jack Nicklaus: 62%

6. With driver in hand, you prefer to…

Tee it high: 70%
Tee it low: 30%

7. If you can only carry one or the other…

Hybrid: 81%
3-iron: 19%

8. Would you rather drive it…

As long as Dustin Johnson: 49%
As accurate as Zach Johnson: 51%

9. If you could get one lesson, it would be from…

Butch Harmon: 74%
Hank Haney: 26%

10. Your dream golf destination is…

Scotland: 70%
Ireland: 30%

11. From the apron of the green, you’re pulling a…

Wedge: 30%
Putter: 70%

12. During a round, you’re…

Boozing: 24%
Abstaining: 76%

13. At the course your cell phone policy is…

In your pocket: 14%
In your bag: 73%
In your car: 13%

14. The ideal number of holes in one day is…

9: 3%
18: 72%
36: 25%

15.  In most rounds you prefer to…

Tee it forward: 65%
Play the tips: 35%

16. The most iconic par 3 in America is…

No. 7 at Pebble Beach: 30%
No. 12 at Augusta: 70%

17. When facing a risky approach to a par 5, you’re most likely to…

Go for it: 36%
Lay up: 64%

18. The most important question of all: At the turn, you’re gabbing a…

Burger: 24%
Hot dog: 68%
Wheatgrass smoothie: 7%

courtesy of Extra Spin Staff

 

Phil Mickelson on how Tiger Woods has changed

Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods go way back as one of the most beloved and fiery golf rivalries of all time. But as veterans of the game, they’ve come to respect and like each other both as competitors and teammates. And according to Mickelson, that was no more apparent than at the 2016 Ryder Cup at Hazeltine.

Speaking to Sports Illustrated’s Alan Shipnuck for a GOLF.com podcast, Mickelson practically gushed about Woods’ transformation off the course, especially in the Ryder Cup team room.

“He’s really fun to be around now,” Mickelson said. “He’s very thoughtful and detail oriented, but more than that, he’s been very approachable and helpful with a lot of the guys.

“I think for a number of years, he felt – and I don’t know this – but I think he felt as if he were to open up in these team events, he would be breaking down that aura that he’s built and the intimidation he’s built and could affect his career in some of these tournaments by that one week, and so has always been kind of held back or reluctant.”

According to Mickelson, Woods’ ideas during the Ryder Cup were instrumental in the game plan that helped deliver the Cup to the Americans after eight years of European domination. One example Mickelson mentioned was moving the tees back on par-5s when shorter hitters were playing, so they could take advantage with their strong wedge play. And, for the bigger hitters, moving the tees up so they could attack the green in two.

“I don’t know what it is but the last three or four years he’s been much more approachable and engaging with the guys and really fun to be around,” Mickelson said. “Guys grew up, on the team, idolizing him and watching him, and to have him support you and talk to you and be with you has been really fulfilling.”

It’s not just the personable Woods that Mickelson admires. Asked whether or not Mickelson thinks Woods will win again, he didn’t hesitate.

“Oh yeah,” Mickelson said. “He’s too good not to, unless physically something holds him back. He’d just out-ball-strike guys and he would win tournaments that way even not putting that great. He would win tournaments out putting everybody even if he didn’t strike it that great, because he was such a great putter and (had a) great short game. But when he did them both together, he just spanked everybody and won by 15 like the 2000 US Open.

“He doesn’t have to be the best he’s ever been at to win tournaments because his talent level is so high and I think it’s much easier to do it again than it is to do it for the first time.”

McIlroy Taken By Storm In South Africa

JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA – JANUARY 15: Graeme Storm of England celebrates with the trophy after winning the BMW South African Open Championship at Glendower Golf Club on January 15, 2017 in Johannesburg, South Africa. (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

Graeme Storm beat Rory McIlroy on the third playoff hole to win the SA Open on Sunday, earning the Englishman a second European Tour title 80 days after losing his card by 100 euros.

After the 251st-ranked Storm tapped in for a par, McIlroy slid his par putt wide from 7 feet on their fourth visit to the 18th hole at the Glendower Golf Club.

“I’m in shock, this has been a surreal week,” Storm said. “To find myself in the position I was in, playing on the final day with the best player in the world right now. It’s just a dream come true.”

McIlroy, the world No. 2, started the final round three strokes behind Storm but chased down the overnight leader, moving atop the leaderboard when Storm missed a 3-foot par putt on No. 14. McIlroy relinquished the lead by bogeying No. 17 after taking two shots in a greenside bunker, taking the event to a playoff with both on 18-under-par 270.

McIlroy shot 4-under 68 and Storm had a 71.

Storm lost his card at the end of last year, only to get a reprieve when American player Patrick Reed failed to play enough events to join the tour.

His other title came at the French Open in 2007.

Tour rookie Jordan Smith of England was a shot back in third ahead of a trio of South African players. Dean Burmester was fourth on 273, one stroke ahead of Thomas Aiken and Trevor Fisher Jnr.

On the first playoff hole, Storm sank a close-range putt for par. They went back up the par-4 18th and both players drove into the rough but still managed to make par.

The third time round, McIlroy hit his approach shot short of the green to give Storm the advantage. The Englishman’s 45-foot birdie putt just missed, as did McIlory’s putt for par minutes later.

Storm played cautiously Sunday, coming up short with many putts in the back nine, to allow McIlroy to eat into his lead.

Courtesy of AP NEWS

Woody Austin Shoots 59 At Diamond Resorts Invitational

Woody Austin

Woody Austin shot a 59 at the Diamond Resorts Invitational. And he didn’t even know it.

Austin went on a birdie tear in the opening round of the tournament, carding 10 birdies and an eagle with no bogeys. When he walked off the 18th green, Austin believed he had a great round, but not a 59.

“I didn’t know it was a par-71 so when I walked off the last green I thought I shot 60,” Austin said. “Everybody goes, ‘No, it’s a par-71.’ So, ah, cool. I really didn’t know.

“I’ve said all along the game has gotten a lot easier because of the technology and the golf ball,”Austin continued. “It really is a putting contest. And I proved that today. If you get hot in one round, it’s so easy to keep the ball in front of you. When you’re on, you’re really on.”

The event has a mixed field of PGA Tour Champions Tour players, LPGA Tour players and celebrities, so it’s not an official Champions Tour event. But still, a 59 is a 59.

Rory McIlroy Resents The Olympic Games For ‘Political’ Choice

Rory McIlroy tees off at Hazeltine National during the 2016 Ryder Cup.

Rory McIlroy says he resented how the Olympics forced him to decide whether he would represent Ireland or Britain and that it reached a point that it “wasn’t worth the hassle” to compete in Rio de Janeiro.

In an interview with the Sunday Independent in Ireland, McIlroy explained why he was so critical of golf’s return to the Olympics during a press conference at last summer’s British Open.

McIlroy, the four-time major champion from Northern Ireland, cited concerns over the Zika virus as his reason not to go to Rio.

He told the Irish newspaper that when the International Olympic Committee announced in 2009 that golf would be part of the program for the first time since 2004, “all of a sudden it put me in a position where I had to question who I am.”

“Who am I? Where am I from? Where do my loyalties lie? Who am I going to play for? Who do I not want to (upset) the most?” McIlroy said. “I started to resent it. And I do. I resent the Olympic Games because of the position it put me in. That’s my feelings toward it. And whether that’s right or wrong, that’s how I feel.”

McIlroy said he sent a text message to Justin Rose to congratulate him on winning the gold medal in Rio for Britain. He said Rose thanked him and asked if McIlroy felt as though he had missed out.

“I said, ‘Justin, if I had been on the podium (listening) to the Irish national anthem as that flag went up, or the British national anthem as that flag went up, I would have felt uncomfortable either way.'” McIlroy told the newspaper. “I don’t know the words to either anthem. I don’t feel a connection to either flag. I don’t want it to be about flags. I’ve tried to stay away from that.”

McIlroy was among several top stars who opted to skip the Olympics, most citing the Zika virus. He had been scheduled to play for Ireland until announcing in June he would not be going. Jordan Spieth did not announce his decision to miss Rio until a few days before the British Open. McIlroy spoke after Spieth, and the Olympics was brought up again.

McIlroy dismissed the notion that he had let down his sport, saying, “I didn’t get into golf to try and grow the game.” He also said that he probably wouldn’t watch Olympic golf on TV, only “the stuff that matters.”

“Well, I’d had nothing but questions about the Olympics – ‘the Olympics, the Olympics, the Olympics’ – and it was just one question too far,” McIlroy said. “I’d said what I needed to say. I’d got myself out of it, and it comes up again. And I could feel it. I could just feel myself go, ‘Poom!’ And I thought, ‘I’m going to let them have it.’

“OK, I went a bit far,” he added. “But I hate that term, ‘growing the game.’ Do you ever hear that in other sports? In tennis? Football? ‘Let’s grow the game.’ I mean, golf was here long before we were, and it’s going to be here long after we’re gone. So I don’t get that, but I probably went a bit overboard.”

McIlroy said Olympic golf didn’t mean that much to him.

“It really doesn’t. I don’t get excited about it. And people can disagree, and have a different opinion, and that’s totally fine,” he said. “Each to their own.”

McIlroy, who is to play the South African Open this week, said he has never been driven by nationalism or patriotism because of where he was raised.

“And I never wanted it to get political or about where I’m from, but that’s what it turned into,” he said. “And it just got to the point where it wasn’t worth the hassle.”

Courtesy of Dublin (AP)